How will you make sure everyone has a place to thrive in Burnaby?
That was the broad question put to mayoral candidates at a forum focused on social inclusion Tuesday evening.
All four mayoral hopefuls – Derek Corrigan, Mike Hurley, Helen H. S. Chang and Sylvia Gung – squared off at Maywood Community School during an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Burnaby Inter-Agency Council.
Several questions were directed at just the two frontrunners, Hurley and Corrigan, leaving the other two candidates sitting and listening for much of the evening.
The candidates were asked what they would do to welcome newcomers to the city.
Hurley said it took him a few years to adjust to life in Canada after immigrating here from Northern Ireland as a young man. He said that experience is more difficult for people who don’t speak English as a second language.
Hurley said the city must be welcoming to new Canadians but offered little in the form of concrete policy on the subject.
“The importance of welcoming newcomers here can never be overstated,” Hurley said.
Corrigan said the city has little jurisdiction over helping immigrants, but he pointed out the school board has recently hired more settlement workers.
Corrigan also praised the work of local organizations, including Burnaby Neighbourhood House, for its settlement work. He said the city has made providing such organizations space a priority.
Gung said the city should provide job training to newcomers and Chang said the city needs more organized efforts to connect alienated citizens with one another.
On a question about LGBTQ inclusion, there was little disagreement between the two frontrunners.
Hurley said he would fly the Pride flag at City Hall every year without requiring citizens to make an annual request (as is the city’s current policy).
Corrigan said he was proud to fly the flag for the first time this year, as well as support the city’s first-ever Pride event. The event was small this year but will grow, he said.
Both men used a question about reconciliation with Indigenous people as an opportunity to speak about their signature issues.
Corrigan said he is proud of how the City of Burnaby has partnered with area First Nations in the fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. He praised the tireless work of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation for its legal battle that ultimately quashed federal approval of the project.
Hurley said he has supported his First Nations step-daughter in her struggles to “be recognized for things she needed to be recognized for.”
He said one of the best ways to advance reconciliation will be to provide affordable housing for Indigenous people. He said many people affected by demovictions in recent years have been Indigenous.
Asked how they would make life more affordable for seniors, Hurley said he would make housing affordable for them, including considering a property tax break for longtime homeowners, while Corrigan said property taxes should remain low and the city should continue supporting local service providers.